Mercer County School bus

BDT file photo

PRINCETON — Finding enough certified teachers ready to teach subjects including math and science in area schools is still a challenging task for southern West Virginia’s school districts, local administrators said Wednesday.

The personnel agenda presented during the Sept. 24 Mercer County Board of Education meeting showed approximately 31 teaching positions to be filled; this figure included 11 special education teachers. There were another 19 assistant coaching positions to be filled.

Superintendent Deborah Akers said the school system continues to seek applicants for teaching positions.

“We do have substitutes in the vacancies, but we do continue to advertise them,” she said. 

Some of the teaching vacancies have been created by recent resignations, but finding certified applicants has been a challenge. Akers said the school system is constantly re-advertising available positions and working to fill them with qualified people.

“We’ve had shortages in different fields like special education and in some areas such as math and science for several years,” Akers said. “We’ve reached a point to where we have difficultly finding certified applicants in almost every field.”

In McDowell County, an apartment building called Renaissance Village is being constructed in downtown Welch to help attract more teachers to the local school system. The $7 million project by the revitalization group Reconnecting McDowell will be a four-story facility with 16 apartments designed to house teachers, offering them affordable rental property.

Personnel Director Tonya White said McDowell County currently has “around 22 vacancies.” Substitute teachers and retired teachers have been filling the vacancies.

“It’s really spread out,” she said when asked about the types of positions which need to be filled. “There’s no one area that really sticks out although we do tend to need more special education (teachers) and we have had a time finding math teachers, which I understand is a problem across the state. That seems to be everybody’s demand whenever you get several counties together. Everybody needs math and special education teachers.”

A lack of infrastructure in McDowell County has made it a less appealing place to teach than other counties, but the hope is that the new Renaissance Village will help address that problem, White said.

McDowell County does not receive many inquires from teachers seeking jobs. Some of the applicants don’t have a teaching degree.

“We get some people who don’t have an education background,” White said, adding that they are trying to switch professions. The school system helps these applicants by letting them know which steps they need to take to become certified teachers. 

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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